There was an announcement:

‘We are experiencing some turbulence, would you please remain in your seats and stay calm. We will be handing out something to help you.’

Participants of the 2019 HOTA conference in the Great Hall of University House, ANU, were passed, to their amusement, a waxed-paper airline sickbag. However, it wasn’t empty, and the outside was printed with the conference logo and the initials F&F. Each bag contained a laminated Conference Emergency Card’ and a 12pp ‘inflight zine’ called HOT AZ. Fred & Flo are sorry-not-sorry for the amount of rustling and chuckling during the next speaker’s talk…

2019 HOTA conference waxed-paper airline sickbag

Tasked by the organisers to do an artistic activation for the conference, Fred (Dr Ursula Frederick) and Flo (Dr Caren Florance) wanted to make something to hold in the hand, in keeping with Fred’s object-based practice and Flo’s collaborative printing practice. A zine is a casual, lo-fi publication that has a small distribution run, often utilising a raw, DIY or punk aesthetic. In keeping and in contrast with the commercial airline magazines designed to alleviate boredom and guide you to your destination, the zine seemed the ideal format to engage laterally with the themes of the conference: Modernism, Machines, Migration, Memory. We sourced the sickbags online and gave them a unique design that used a hand-pulled screenprint in black-brown by Fred at Canberra’s Megalo Print Studio, and a bright orange letterpress ink swipe hand-rolled by Flo at the ANU SOAD Printmaking Workshop.

Sickbags were created using a hand-pulled screenprint in black-brown by Fred at Canberra’s Megalo Print Studio

Fred has a collection of inflight magazines, and we plundered these for ideas for the Heritage of The Air Zine! (HOT AZ!) pages. There were many ideas that were left on the cutting room floor for lack of time, but anyone who has travelled frequently on planes will recognise the brilliance of her ‘consumption collages’, using jewellery and watches. We followed the traditional inflight mag pattern: a jolly CEO greeting, local landmark features, a more rigorous than usual flight map with statistics, puzzle pages, entertainment lists, and lots of ads. There are small surprises throughout for the keen (and sharp) eye, and the QR codes on page 8 lead to airplane-related historical sound files.

The emergency card links to the zine via our mutual interest in contemporary human rights and surveillance issues. One side is helpful ‘conference emergency advice’ – who hasn’t been cornered at a conference by someone they don’t want to engage with? It tells you to hold the reverse of the card up in front of your face as a disguise. This gave us an opportunity to feature a very contemporary form of ‘dazzle’, or strategic camouflage first developed in WWI. The hair and makeup on our dazzle diagram is designed to thwart facial recognition cameras (increasingly prevalent at airports) and the QR code in the corner will take you straight to the source article. One of the most important features on the card is the conference NO-NO list, modelled on the airport charts of contraband substances and objects. Again, this is the result of a brainstorm about bad conference behaviour and can also double as a bingo card.

We decided to include controversial information about flight, both contemporary and historical. It is our prerogative as artists to present ideas, push buttons, and test concepts. We wanted to entertain, but also provoke and showcase. Afterall, the turbulence, discomfort and stale air of transit allows us to better appreciate the conditions of a safe arrival. The hours spent pulling squeegees, folding and stapling paper, and stuffing sickbags were absolutely worth it when you hold the real thing in the hand. Hold on tight if you managed to get one: they may one day be collectible…


Caren Florance and Ursula Frederick

Caren Florance works creatively with text and print in many different ways, but books remain close to her heart. Ursula is an artist based in Canberra, Australia. Her primary modes of art practice are photography, printmaking and video.

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